Saratoga Casino and Raceway

Saratoga Casino and Raceway

Skipn Dickstein

Churchill Downs Becoming NY Casino Partner

Churchill Downs is partnering with Saratoga Casino and Raceway on a resort casino.

Churchill Downs is looking to get into the New York casino business, announcing a plan May 13 to partner with Saratoga Casino and Raceway for a destination-style casino facility in a suburb near Albany.

"Together we'll deliver a destination resort casino that will create reliable revenues for the entire Capital Region, generate thousands of jobs, and be best positioned to keep New York gaming dollars in New York,'' said Bill Carstanjen, president and chief operating officer of Louisville-based Churchill, in a written statement announcing the partnership.

Community opposition blocked a Saratoga Casino and Raceway plan to expand its existing racino into a full-blown casino, so it recently proposed a new casino site in the town of East Greenbush in Rensselaer County, across the Hudson River from Albany.

New York voters last fall approved up to seven new commercial casinos in the state. The state has begun the first round of licensing four initial casinos. The first four are allowed in three specific geographic areas of the state: Saratoga/Albany area; a sprawling region that goes from the Binghamton area in the southern tier to a narrow band east of Rochester; and, a final region that includes the Catskills and Mid-Hudson Valley.

The East Greenbush proposal, one of several likely to be submitted by developers for the greater Albany area, calls for a $300 million facility. "Our organizations come from a horse racing heritage and have a combined two centuries of proven gaming experience,'' James Featherstonhaugh, a lobbyist and part owner of the Saratoga harness track and casino, said of the venture with Churchill.

The Casino at East Greenbush, as the project is called, promises 1,700 permanent jobs and $24.1 million in annual revenue-sharing payments for the local region's governments. The plan also calls for a 300-room hotel, various dining and entertainment outlets, and 20,000 square feet of retail space.

Churchill is one of a growing list of entities that have recently come forward to want in on the New York casino expansion effort. Among the players are Caesars Entertainment, Penn National Gaming, and Genting New York. In all, 22 groups recently paid the state $1 million, which is refundable up to a point, to be a part of the bidding process; bids are due to the state by the end of June and the state has said it will make decisions by the fall.